It started as most classic love stories start. She was drawn in by the captivating eyes and she knew deep down in her heart that they were simply meant to be. Perhaps the only difference in this tale, or tail if you will, was that the object of the young lady's affection was a feline.
"When I saw her, I loved her. She has beautiful green eyes and we named her Riley," said Heidi Boucher. "She likes to sleep on my pillow. So, I like to put my arm around her she usually comes up [into] my arms"
A year ago, Heidi and her mother, Melissa Boucher, would adopt Riley (formerly known as Bentley) from Crossfield's Tails to Tell Animal Rescue. Heidi's mother said that while her daughter has always had a deep love and connection for animals, whether is befriending the local feral cat and then pampering them with a ride in a doll stroller or having birthday fundraising parties with all the proceeds going to Tails to Tell.
"She [Heidi] has some extra needs, so she's always found pets very regulating. We've often borrowed our friend's dogs for a walk when she's having a hard day or gone to Tails to Tell, just so she could pet the cat(s)," Boucher said. "She just got away with animals and connects with them on a level that I don't think I've ever seen anybody [do]."
But how exactly did these two kindred souls meet? Riley had been at the shelter for nearly eight years, and according to Dawn Parker, a volunteer for Tails to Tell, there had been an adoption previously, but ultimately it was unsuccessful. It seemed however that Riley's waiting all those years in the shelter was not for nothing.
"Edna had suggested to Melissa and Heidi to meet Bentley. Well, I guess Bentley decided that was [Heidi] her person and that's it: they just bonded. It's just been a love story since then," Parker said.
By both human and feline standards, Riley is a senior and it can sometimes be a factor in why older animals are overlooked, but not for Heidi.
"Heidi's always rooting for the underdog her whole life. So, for her, I think it was compelling that Riley had been at the shelter since she was a kitten and had been returned a couple of times. After talking with Edna, I really think the big reason why Riley was returned is that she is so incredibly shy," Heidi's mother said.
Parker also underlined that even though older pets tend to be passed over, they are the ones with the most love to give.
"Kittens are great to grow up with the kids. But, for me, it's the older ones who've loved before, they've felt loss and they're looking for that replacement. They just need that person to gain that trust back again."
It would take almost a month for Riley to come out of her shell at home, something Heidi understood with love and stoic patience. Whether it was Heidi climbing under her bed and reading Riley a book, or putting the food dish under the bed for her new feline companion, Heidi did it all out of love.
However, Heidi's mother said that she did have an important, albeit difficult conversation she had with her daughter prior to adopting Riley. Her mother told her daughter that senior pets may not have long to live and their departure is heartbreaking.
"Heidi was really willing to risk that for the sake of Riley because she fell in love with her so quickly," she said. "I couldn't be prouder of my kids. I think every parent wants their kids to surpass them in whatever virtues they have. I've always said that Heidi has a double dose of kindness in her heart."
Most recently, Heidi decided to continue giving love and support to Tails to Tell by selling hotel toiletries in the bathrooms at the Didsbury Campground, which is looked after by her mother. She collected $63.75. The money was given to the Didsbury veterinary office and put it in the Tails to Tell account for the special needs cats and other veterinary bills.
When Heidi was asked what advice, she could impart to those who may also be looking to adopt an older animal, she said that the time you have with your furry companion is not what matters.
"I would say that we might not have much time with them, but the time you have with them will be the best."
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